Choosing a Banjo: Details on Different Types

Man playing Banjo
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


It’s not easy to find a perfect banjo on the market, especially with all these offers. Apart from the enormous amount of music stores with instruments of different colors and shapes, you have to deal with numerous types. If you don’t know how to pick the best open-back banjo and what it means, you need to read the article.

Basic Types of Banjos

Before you start your journey into the world of country music, you need to understand what kind of music you want to play. There are numerous styles of country. Depending on your preferences you will need a specific type of Banjo.

5 Strings

This is a classic type of banjo. It is widely used by bluegrass performers. You may know it as the G banjo or bluegrass banjo. It is usually the first association that comes to your mind when we talk about country music. There is a 5th string that makes it different from other banjos. They differ by configurations:

  • Open-back type is better for the traditional music. Open-back simply does not have any back, so the sound chamber stays uncovered;;
  • Resonator type is used in bluegrass. They are heavier and louder. Resonator or closed back banjo projects sound directly to the audience due to the mounted wooden bowl to the sound chamber’s back.


Plectrum Banjos

They have 4 strings only and are played with the pick or plectrum. You don’t stroke fingers on strings. The standard tuning is CGBD. It is widely used in musical theater. If you mainly use the chord structures, you will need a plectrum banjo. It has a lower pitch than the tenor banjo.

Bass Banjo

Bass banjo or bassjo has only three strings attached. During the last century, it was widely used in orchestras. Musicians used this instrument as the replacement for the double bass. For many years professional players put it vertically play due to the fashion of that period of time. It has a similar tuning to the upright bass.

Tenor Banjo

This instrument is known as Jazz or Irish tenor banjo. In comparison with the 5th string banjo, this model has a shorter scale. You may find from 17 up to 19 frets models. The tuning is similar to the 5th string. This banjo is widely used for jazz performances. Apart from that Irish music and ceili folk bands prefer to play the tenor banjo.

6 String

The 6-string banjo is also known as the guitar banjo as it has a similar number of strings. However, this banjo isn’t popular among professional folk song players. Banjo players believe this model is similar to guitar and avoid it. Guitar players, on the other hand, also ignore this banjo. Yet, this musical instrument makes fantastic sounds and is easy to learn. It provides a wide range of tones. Apart from that, it sounds like a banjo.

Mandolin Banjo

This creative mix of banjo and mandolin is known among musicians as bandolin. It combines the best features of banjo and mandolin. There are more options for sound. You don’t need to learn new chords as it is similar to the classic banjo design. If you are looking for something new, you can try this hybrid.

Cello Banjo

The cello banjo has a similar tuning to the cello. It is popular among banjo bands and orchestras. The musical instrument became well-known in the early part of the 20th century. You may find the 5 string cello banjo that will be appreciated by musicians who played bluegrass banjo for years.

Banjo for Different Occasions

You can pick the banjo based on your style preferences. After some time, once you learn how to play it, you can experiment with other instruments. This article will help you to understand which type of banjo you need for your performance. Think about the simplicity of performance, music style, and extra features each instrument provides.